Sunday, 25 September 2016

Crossovers II

I am rereading Stieg Larsson's crime novels and would not want the integrity of such a novel to be compromised by, e.g., the sudden appearance of an alien spaceship. Nevertheless, while reading such a novel, we know that it is set on Earth which is just one of many planets. We just do not need to be reminded of the fact. For how Poul Anderson places a contemporary detective novel in its cosmic context, see here and here.

Our cosmic context is not just interplanetary. Cosmic rays, neutrinos, gravity waves and dark energy go right through us so maybe time travelers do as well? It is good to alternate between contemporary fiction and science fiction while remembering that these genres express different aspects of what Poul Anderson calls All One Universe.

Saturday, 24 September 2016


Can there be plausible crossovers between fictional series of different genres? Not often. Nicholas van Rijn can visit the Old Phoenix but an appearance by a fantasy hero would be an unwelcome intrusion in a hard sf series. We can accept that the various universes coexist in a single multiverse but usually do not interact. If there were to be interactions, then they could be allusive and ambiguous rather than in your face, e.g., one and the same character might be a merchant in a historical novel and a time traveler posing as a merchant in a time travel novel.

The superhero genre is ahead of the game in this kind of interaction:

heroes with scientifically based powers meet heroes with magically based powers;

when Plastic Man, drawn in cartoon style, met Superman, drawn more realistically, it was explained that the drug that caused Plas' stretching power also distorted his perceptions so that Supes looked cartoonish to him;

when Alan Moore was editorially instructed that his fantasy series, Swamp Thing, had to participate in the company-wide crossover of the Crisis on Infinite Earths, he explored the supernatural after-effects of the Crisis.

Lessons might be learned by writers of prose fantasy and sf. A Crisis in Poul Anderson's Old Phoenix multiverse might manifest in different ways in the diverse universes without compromising the integrity of those universes. Trygve Yamamura solved cases that seemed to have a supernatural element. Maybe that element was present on a level that he did not detect but that was known to Valeria Matuchek.

Without Technology

Space Travel Without Spaceships
The Galactics in Poul Anderson's "The Chapter Ends."
The Black Nebulans in Anderson's "Sargasso of Lost Starships."
Joel Weatherfield in Anderson's "Earthman, Beware!"

Time Travel Without Time Machines
There Will Be Time.
"The Man Who Came Early."
"Missing One's Coach."
A Connecticut Yankee.
Jack Finney's two novels and most of his short stories.
Richard Matheson's Bid Time Return.
Audrey Niffeneger's The Time Traveler's Wife.
L Sprague de Camp's Lest Darkness Fall.
Alison Uttley's A Traveler In Time.
Philippa Pearce's Tom's Midnight Garden.
SM Stirling's Nantucket Trilogy.

As usual, more than you might think.

Flypaper And Vanished Worlds

See John Steinbeck quotation here.

"'The flies have conquered the flypaper,' she quoted."
-SM Stirling, Against The Tide Of Years (New York, 1999), Chapter Seventeen, p. 251.

"I wish I could quote that great line of Steinbeck's, about the flies having conquered the flypaper."
-Poul Anderson, "Star of the Sea" IN Anderson, Time Patrol (New York, 2006), 16, p. 606.

A great line? What does it mean? An army has conquered a country but has got bogged down in it?

The beautiful young princess speaks four languages:

"...and a bit of what seemed to be a very archaic form of Sanskrit." (Against The Tide..., p. 253)

"Ian...was working on a history of the Indo-European languages in his spare time. He would be working even harder on it if there were some way of publishing in the vanished world uptime. Not many people on the Island were interested." (ibid., p. 254)

A vanished world! We recognize "uptime" as Time Patrol terminology.

"Had the weather been the same this day in the destroyed world?"
-Poul Anderson, The Shield of Time (New York, 1991), p. 356.

A destroyed world! Thus time travelers think of timelines that they have left behind.


A fanzine article once formulated one of the rules of the ERBian universe, i.e., a woman about to be assaulted will be inevitably be rescued at the last moment. It remains only to compile a list of examples, e.g. Jane, about to be assaulted by an ape, rescued by Tarzan; Jane, about to be assaulted by Tarzan, rescued by the power of her purity etc. Some practical guidelines emerged, e.g., watch out for those Emperors of Abyssinia; if the assault occurs in a boat, then the assailant can be laid out with an oar etc.

It is also a truth universally acknowledged that a woman rescued from barbarians will turn out to be a young and beautiful princess who will marry her rescuer. SM Stirling plays with this idea in Against The Tide Of Years (New York, 1999), Chapter Fifteen:

"'So, Colonel, I hear it's a princess we rescued,' he said. 'A young, beautiful princess at that.'" (p. 234)

But what would be the implications of rescuing a princess? Stirling immediately spells it out:

"'Paddy, for once rumor does not lie - and there's all sorts of political implications involved.'" (p. 235)

The news that there is a surviving member of the Mitannian royal family is a complicating factor just when everyone is declaring independence and the Aramaeans are burning and looting. The Babylonians are stretched thin and the Nantucketers do not want complicating factors like a beautiful young princess.

Current Comparisons

Currently, Blog Central is reading for the first time SM Stirling's Nantucket Trilogy, Volume II, Against The Tide Of Years. Not only fascinating in its own right, this work has sparked comparisons with:

Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civiliztion;
Anderson's Time Patrol series;
his "Flight to Forever";
his The Corridors Of Time;
his There Will Be Time;
his The Star Fox;
Poul and Karen Anderson's The King Of Ys;
Doctor Who;
HG Wells' The Time Machine;
Audrey Niffeneger's The Time Traveler's Wife;
James Blish's After Such Knowledge.

That is quite a lot and, as usual when I compile such a list, more than I had expected.

Temporal Scenery

When we travel by land, sea or air or through space, we see what is around us so what is the scenery for a time traveler?

(i) On a Time Patrol timecycle, or if you are Audrey Niffeneger's Henry DeTamble, you see nothing because the jump is instantaneous.

(ii) In the TARDIS, you see only the inside of the TARDIS.

(iii) In Poul Anderson's time projector, you also see a featureless grayness through the porthole.

(iv) Anderson's Wardens and Rangers see the corridor that they walk or drive along.

(v) SM Stirling's Nantucketers see a dome of fire above the island.

(vi) Wells' Time Traveler and Anderson's psychic time travelers, including Jack Havig, see their environment fast forwarding or rewinding, thus real temporal scenery. See here.

Havig says:

"'I...will myself backward or forward in time...
"'I'm in a shadow world while I time-travel. Lighting varies from zero to gray. If I'm crossing more than one day-and-night period, it flickers. Objects look dim, foggy, flat...No air reaches me on my way. I have to hold my breath, and emerge occasionally for a lungful if the trip takes that long in my personal time.'"
-Poul Anderson, There Will Be Time (New York, 1973), IV, p. 37.

The Time Traveler recounts:

"'...night followed day like the flapping of a black wing...'" (p. 24);
the dimly seen laboratory fell away;
the sun hopped across the sky every minute;
scaffolding came and went;
the twinkling succession of day and night was painful to the eye;
the moon span through its quarters;
the circling stars were faintly glimpsed;
night and day became a single grayness;
the sky became deep blue;
the sun became a brilliant arch, the moon a fainter band;
the stars became an occasionally glimpsed brighter circle;
"'The landscape was misty and vague...'"' (p. 25);
trees grew and changed like vapor;
huge buildings rose faint and fair and passed away;
the Earth's surface melted and flowed;
the sun arch swayed between solstices in a minute or less;
white snow and green spring alternated;
great and splendid architecture arose, massive but of glimmer and mist;
richer green flowed up the hill;
winters ceased;
the Traveler is "'...attenuated -...slipping like a vapour through the interstices of intervening substances!'" (p. 26)

HG Wells, The Time Machine (London, 1973), 4 "Time Travelling."

How much slips through our interstices? Neutrinos, dark energy and what or who else?

The Time Machine is a future history of sorts. The Time Traveler fast forwards hundreds of thousands of years, then stops for a few days and deduces that humanity has devolved into Morlocks and Eloi, whereas Anderson instead presents evolution into Danellians.

God The Father

SM Stirling, Against The Tide Of Years (New York, 1999), Chapter Fifteen.

"'Diawas Pithair!'" (p. 233)

"'...Zeus the Father...'" (p. 236)

The Latin name Iuppiter originated as a vocative compound of the Old Latin vocative *Iou and pater ("father") and came to replace the Old Latin nominative case *Ious. Jove[106] is a less common English formation based on Iov-, the stem of oblique cases of the Latin name. Linguistic studies identify the form *Iou-pater as deriving from the Indo-European vocative compound *Dyēu-pəter (meaning "O Father Sky-god"; nominative: *Dyēus-pətēr).[107]
 -copied from here.

 Odin is Allfather.

"The Father and I are one." (See here.) 

Here is a strong common theme in theistic religion. 

Invisible Devils

"Other bullets kicked up puffs of smoke around them; he saw one Assyrian stop and slam his spear at one, probably thinking it was some sort of invisible devil."
-SM Stirling, Against The Tide Of Years (New York, 1999), Chapter Fifteen, p. 230.

Exactly! You and I know what a bullet is but an ancient Assyrian doesn't so what will he think and how will he react? Recently in the combox, David Birr referred to a story in which a pastward time traveler killed his assailants with a gun. Witnesses thought that he held a hammer which invisibly flew from and returned to his hand...

When Stane tried to change history in post-Roman Britain:

"'None dared cross him, for he had a wand which threw thunderbolts and had been seen to cleave rocks and once, in battle with the Britons, burn men down.'" (Anderson, Time Patrol, p. 33)

Stane has "...a thirtieth-century blast-ray.'" (p. 36)

In Doctor Mirabilis, Roger Bacon believes that a gaseous explosion is demonic. In Black Easter, a scientist denies that a visible demon is real.
-copied from here

A visible demon would be another matter.

I once heard (anecdotal evidence here, folks) that Australia aborigines said that a van was moved by "spirit horses." If they insisted on this explanation, then the phrase "spirit horses" would become the term in their language for "internal combustion engine."

A Wellsian Time Patrol

I still stand by my proposed sequel to HG Wells' The Time Machine. I think that the argument makes sense. The Wellsian Time Machine resembles a Time Patrol timecycle to the extent that a single traveler sits on the vehicle. S/he is not enclosed by the machine and cannot stand up or walk around while traveling. There is no room for other travelers on the single vehicle, although presumably bigger vehicles could be made. In the Time Patrol timeline, there are bigger timecycles, e.g., "An outsize machine bearing saddles for eight..." (Time Patrol, p. 758), and also different designs of time machines. Everard goes to the Academy in a "...time shuttle - a big, featureless metal box -" (Time Patrol, p. 6) while " Ing-model time shuttle..." (p. 42) is a "...great steel cylinder..." (p. 43) that Whitcomb enters after Everard has loaded boxes and other luggage into it. A Patrol carrier is "...a large cylinder that hovered on antigravity..." (The Shield Of Time, p. 281) and is big enough to transport horses and a chariot.

The Patrol's timecycles are more sophisticated and versatile than the Time Traveler's single Machine:

a timecycle resembles "...a motorcycle without wheels or kickstand..." (p. 20) whereas the Time Machine is a glittering metallic framework incorporating brass rails, nickel bars that must be exactly the right length, ivory, rock crystal and twisted quartz-like crystalline bars;

the timecycle has "...two saddles and an antigravity propulsion unit..." (Time Patrol, p. 20);

thus, the timecycle can hover and fly as well as travel through time;

it can also space-time travel instead of remaining stationary on the Earth's surface as the Time Machine and Anderson's time projector do;

the Time Patrolmen change their spatiotemporal coordinates instantaneously from their point of view whereas the Time Traveler watches the world flickering past.

However, presumably, subsequent Time Machines can incorporate improvements. The Time Traveler's original idea was of a machine:

"'That shall travel indifferently in any direction of Space and Time, as the driver determines.'"
-HG Wells, The Time Machine (London, 1973), 1 "Introduction," p. 11.

The travel through space could be by more familiar means. The Machine might have wheels and wings as well as the nickel and crystalline bars for temporal propulsion. Thus, we can imagine a fleet of Machines and an organization of Travelers. I suggested what their purposes might be in the proposed sequel. I do not think that they should have to contend with mutable reality because this seems inappropriate to the view of time and history presented in The Time Machine itself. However, there is some scope for ambiguity on this issue. When the outer narrator reflects on "...time travelling..." (p. 17), he refers to:

its odd potentialities;
its plausibility;
its practical incredibleness;
"...the curious possibilities of anachronism and of utter confusion it suggested." (ibid.)

This reads as if Wells saw the problems and prudently avoided them whereas Anderson spelled out that, if time travelers can change the past, then there will have to be a Time Patrol.